The researchers at Queen’s Institute of Child Care Research hope their review will influence a change in the policies and practices that contribute to the negative stereotypes of older people that exist amongst children.
Dr Laura Dunne from the Institute of Childcare Research is one of the co-authors of the research, which is entitled ‘Looking Forward: A Systematic Review of Children’s Perceptions of Ageing’. Dr Dunne said: “Northern Ireland, like many other parts of the world, has an ageing population. 16 per cent of the population here are of pensionable age, and this is expected to rise to 24 per cent by 2013. As the proportion of older people in our society increases, it is important to understand how they are perceived by younger generations.
“Our review aims to answer a whole host of questions around what children think about old people and the prospect of ageing. It seems that children often have negative attitudes towards old age. They view it as something to be afraid of or worried about.
“With life expectancy increasing, it is important that these misconceptions are addressed so that today’s children can approach ageing and older people in a more positive way. They must be made aware of the realities of growing old so that they can plan for a longer lifespan in terms of their career, finances and health.
“Our review will provide an extensive resource for other researchers to help them find out more about the factors that contribute to children’s attitudes towards ageing. It will also be invaluable to those in education and policy-making, who must address the negative stereotypes that are formed in early childhood and facilitate more positive contact between young children and older people.”
Professor Ellen Douglas Cowie, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Queen’s, said: “I welcome this research, which is the largest ever review of literature in this area. This is the latest in a series of CAP research projects which aim to identify and challenge attitudes to ageing.
“I hope this project will mark Queen’s University as a leading centre for intergenerational research, which looks at the relationships and gaps between people of different generations. We have already secured funding for a PhD student to take this research forward over the next three years and build upon the excellent work that has already been done.”
Dr Laura Dunne will present key findings from the research at a seminar at the Institute of Governance at 1.00pm on Thursday 17 April.
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